On Sunday May 9, No. 5 Virginia Men’s Tennis (23-2) defeated No. 21 Stanford (11-6) by a score of 4-2 in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship at Boar’s Head Sports Center in Charlottesville, Va. While the 2021 PAC-12 regular season champion, Stanford almost came back after a 3-1 deficit, the Cavaliers won the contest with a thrilling performance by freshman Chris Rodesch.
UVA pre-match huddle//UVA Athletics
UVA Head Coach Andres Pedroso said, “When the bracket came out Monday night and saw Stanford was coming to Virginia, we said all right, we’ve got our hands full. They proved to be really, really tough to beat. I’ve got a lot of respect for Stanford.”
At the open of the match, the Stanford Cardinals took the doubles point, but the Wahoos bounced back in singles. Ryan Goetz scored a 6-1, 6-3 victory on Court 5, followed by freshman Inaki Montes’s 6-4, 6-4 win on Court 4. On Court 6, Gianni Ross downed Stanford’s Neel Rajesh, the 2020 ITA Northwest Region Rookie of the Year, after a heart-pounding 7-6 (9-7) first set. By this point, the Cavaliers were leading 3-1.
Ryan Goetz// UVA Athletics
On Court 2, No. 44-ranked Jeffrey Schulenburg was engaged in a tight battle against Arthur Fery, ranked No. 78. Schulenburg won his first set 6-4, but lost 3-6 in the second set. Fery edged the third set 7-5, giving the Cardinals their first and only singles victory of the match.
Although Virginia was leading 3-2, there was no room for error for the Cavaliers, as 4 points were needed to win the contest. On Court 1, Carl Soderlund won his first set 6-4, but was edged by Axel Geller 7-6 (7-4) in the second set. On Court 3, freshman Chris Rodesch overcame a 2-6 deficit in the first set to win the second set 6-4. Both of these matches had proceeded to the third set, leaving the overall contest up for grabs.
All seemed to be lost on Court 3 when Rodesch trailed Tristan Boyer 1-5 in the third set. Facing a 3-5 deficit at 15-40 with Boyer serving, Rodesch won three consecutive break points to bring the set to 4-5. He then held serve, leveling the score at 5-5. Both players held serve to take the score to 6-6. The tiebreaker was equally as thrilling as the set had been: at one point, Boyer climbed to within one point of Rodesch at a score of 6-5. However, Rodesch prevailed, winning the next point and clinching the suspenseful match for the Wahoos.
Chris Rodesch celebrtes after victory in singles match 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5)
Reflecting on his match, Rodesch said that when he was down 1-5, he told himself,
“Now I don’t have anything to lose. Just aim for your best shots.” “I ended up being the lucky guy,” he said.
Commenting on Rodesch’s unexpected win, Pedroso said, “That match was Chris Rodesch in a nutshell. The guy is always in an unbelievable mood. A couple of numbers on the scoreboard aren’t going to get that kid down.”
Up next, the Cavaliers will face 12th-ranked University of Southern California in Orlando, Florida for the NCAA Round of 16 on Monday, May 17 at 4 pm. Coach Pedroso anticipates a windier and hotter climate in the Sunshine state, but has great confidence in the fitness of his squad, crediting the team’s conditioning specialist and athletic trainers. “You can expect the Wahoos to be 100% in Orlando,” he said.